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NAHL South Training Camp Preview Lone Star Brahmas

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The NAHL South as a division has undergone wholesale changes this offseason. The division has grown to seven teams with the addition of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, there are also four new head coaches looking to make their mark. There is a decided CHL slant with past CHL markets of Amarillo, Odessa, Corpus Christi, Rio Grande and Lone Star having made the move from minor pro to the ranks of junior hockey.

 

The NAHL South has long been considered the toughest division in the league and from the looks of things this season will be no exception. If statements made by new coaches coming into the division play out, they will only further the NAHL South Division’s reputation as the “Black-n-Blue” division.

 

John Becanic who has had two previous coaching stints in the NAHL will be replacing Justin Quenneville behind the Corpus Christi bench. Becanic knows what he is getting himself into. “In the South, every night you have a worthy opponent. And that makes you a better team,” Becanic told the Caller Times. “The Topekas, Amarillos and Texases, they should make us better. We should be a better team every time we play them. We shouldn’t cringe every time we see them on the schedule, we should be looking forward to it. We will learn to embrace the hard.”

 

Joe Coombs who will be coaching the new Rio Grande Killer Bees took it even one step further in remarks to the Rio Grande Valley Monitor. “We want kids that hate to lose and want to battle,” said Coombs. “If that means hitting somebody or blocking a shot or, quite frankly, losing their teeth because they had to get in a fight then that’s what’s going to happen.”

 

Over the past ten seasons the NAHL Robertson Cup Champions have come from the South Division seven times and last year was no exception as Amarillo raised the cup after defeating the Wenatchee Wild. Look for the rough and tumble South Division to make another run at post season glory. Over the next week we will take a look at each team in the South, their roster movements and what you can potentially look for going into training camp.

 

Lone Star Brahmas

 

After a protracted sales process the Texas Tornado were sold and will be moving to their original home of NyTex Sports Centre in North Richland Hills as the Lone Star Brahmas. Dan Wildfong who has been behind the Texas Brahmas CHL bench the past six seasons takes over as Head Coach of Lone Star. The franchise is currently riding a 12 year playoff run which includes five Robertson Cup National Championships.

 

Due to the late sale, Wildfong will be behind the curve in putting together a team as the main camp is scheduled for Aug 23-25 at NyTex, weeks after every other team has already concluded their tryouts. However, Wildfong will have a lot to work with in piecing together a roster heading into the season if all eligible veterans return. The team will look to the returning veterans to help bring the rookies along quickly with the regular season kicking off just 19 days after the camp concludes. Lone Star will open the season with a series at home against the new Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.

 

If his CHL coaching / playing history is an indication of how he will approach the NAHL, fans can look for a physical – defense first style of play. In six seasons Wildfong’s teams finished lower than third in the league in goals allowed only once. Dan was no stranger to the sin bin either averaging 246 PIM per season over an eight year career.

 

During the main camp, the Brahmas will be paying a lot of attention to the guys between the pipes as both of last season’s goalies are ineligible to return. The team can take some solace from the recent NAHL past when goalies have emerged to earn an NHL draft selection after being cut from multiple rosters.

 

The franchise put one of the youngest teams on the ice last season, so only six players are moving on to college. However, USHL clubs tabbed three Tornado forwards in the recent draft. Brandon Hawkins and Scott Conway who were named to the NAHL All Rookie Team were taken in the first round while fellow rookie Louie Rowe was a late round selection. With four forwards potentially returning they will be looked to for some heavy lifting early in the season. Some of the pressure may be taken up by a somewhat familiar face, A.J. Duggan who played four games with the Tornado last season before suffering a season ending shoulder injury is reporting to the main camp. Duggan impressed in his brief stint with 2G + 2A including a game winner.

 

Defensively the team is in much better shape which should fit well with Wildfong’s style. The Brahmas potentially will have 219 games of NAHL experience on the blue-line to open training camp. The maturity gained by a youthful group last season should transfer well to the upcoming season. Four rookie defensemen saw significant ice time including two rounds of playoff experience. Their presence should allow rookie defensemen to develop at their own pace rather than being thrown into the fire.

 

 

2012/13 Roster Potential returning veterans shown in Bold

 

 Player  P   GP     G     A  PTS    +/-    PIM    Comments
 Brandon Hawkins  F

60

35

23

58

+18

68

 Selected by Sioux City with fourth overall pick in USHL draft  
 Jackson Leef  F

60

17

41

58

-3

40

 1992 Birth Date / Aged out
 Justin Greenberg  F

60

25

32

57

+4

4

 Miami Redhawk recruit
 Scott Conway  F

57

18

36

54

+27

96

 Number 7 overall pick by Indiana in the USHL draft
 CJ Reuschlein  F

59

16

31

47

0

111

 Playing at West Point starting in 2013/14
 Andrew Mayer  F

34

15

17

32

+12

53

 6′ 0″ 200 / 1993
 Mitchell McPherson    F

59

14

13

27

+4

54

 6′ 1“ 210 / 1994
 Jason Eddy  F

60

11

16

27

+19

207

 1992 Birth Date / Aged out
 Louie Rowe  F

60

8

11

19

-15

106

 Late round selection of Omaha Lancers in USHL draft
 Leo Lumm  F

39

6

5

11

-5

29

 5′ 8“ 180 / 1995
 Max Shuart  F

15

8

2

10

-4

13

 University of Michigan signee
 Brandon Platt  F

36

6

4

10

-6

10

 1992 Birth Date / Aged out
 Cameron Brown  F

48

3

4

7

+1

47

 6′ 0“ 195 / 1994
 Nick Neville  D

60

7

28

35

+5

10

 University of Denver
 Michael Hoy  D

60

7

22

29

+15

39

 Adrian College of NCHA
 Anthony Mousseau  D

55

2

15

17

+12

51

 5′ 9“ 170 / 1994
 Donovan Gardiner  D

45

2

7

9

+5

70

 5′ 10“ 179 / 1993
 Alexey Soloviev  D

39

1

8

9

-1

4

 6′ 1“ 185 / 1994
 Nick Blase  D

40

2

5

7

+2

39

 6′ 0“ 205 / 1994
 Mitchell Mueller  D

40

1

3

4

+2

39

 6′ 2“ 210 / 1994

W

L

OTL

SO

GAA

SV%

 Hunter Leisner  G

30

19

1

1

2.71

.906

 American International University
 Aaron Davis  G

2

2

0

0

2.75

.896

 On staff of DEVENIR Goaltenders School

 

 

 

Despite the returning core on the back end, the draft started with a pair of defensemen before switching to the offensive side of the ice for the final three picks. The first selection in the draft was Chris Leibinger who is committed to Michigan Tech University. However, Leibinger has two years of junior eligibility remaining. With 96 games played in the NAHL and 55 in the USHL Leibinger would bring a great deal of experience if he decides to pursue another season of juniors.

 

D – Chris Leibinger 5′ 9“ 170 / Waterloo Blackhawks / 4G + 13A in 52 games played.

D – Joey Colatarci 6′ 2“ 170 / Florida Eels / 50 PIMS in 39 games, logging 6G + 28A.

F – Bryan Basilico 6′ 3“ 194 / Greenbay Gamblers / 15 USHL games played, 0G + 1A

F – Igor Vladykovskiy 6′ 2“ 200 / Honeybaked U18 / 9 points on 3G + 6A in 23 games played.

F – Ryan Cusin 5′ 7“ 165 / Victory Honda U18 / Notched 14G + 14A in 41 games.

 

The tendered players who have been identified are all forwards to address the loss of offense to the NCAA and USHL draft.

 

F – Brandon Anderson 6′ 4“ 209 / North Iowa Bulls / Played 7 NAHL games before moving to Bulls 2G + 0A in 15 games total.

F -LawtonCourtnall 6′ 0“ 175 / Omaha AAA / Point plus per game with 13G + 17A in 23 games played.

F – Liam Stirtzinger 6′ 3“ 195 / California Titans / Point per game, 13G + 11A in 22 games and 46 PIMs.

F – Blake Gober 5′ 10“ 179 / Dallas Stars U18 / 40 games played with 14G + 24A.

 

The physical play in the South Division, was obviously a consideration in inking tenders and for those on the draft board. The nine players average just over 6′ 0″ and 184 pounds. The size will serve them well during puck battles and in the corners with teams like Corpus Christi who has stocked up on physical players as well.

 

With the history of on ice success of the franchise, Wildfong and his staff will have quite a legacy to live up too. However, he has repeatedly shown a knack for leading his teams into the post season. Based on the core of returning veterans coming into camp there is no reason to think the Brahmas will not extend their franchise playoff streak to 13 straight seasons.

 

Up next is a look at the Rio Grande Killer Bees, which relocated from Wenatchee, WA. The franchise dropped the Robertson Cup championship to Amarillo last season before making the jump in the offseason.

 

 

 

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